With shipping on the Wu River resumed after a 13-year suspension, landlocked Guizhou Province in the mountains of southwest China has reached out to the Yangtze through the Wu, its biggest tributary.
Produce and staples once dependent on rail and road are now being taken by ship to Chongqing for distribution to elsewhere in China and abroad.
With low shipping costs, factories have started to accumulate along the Wu and industrial parks are being built. With only a few local cargo boats, shipbuilding is also on the rise.
"The waterway has invigorated the local economy and allows Guizhou to make the most of the Yangtze River economic belt," said Han Jianbo, deputy chief of Guizhou transportation bureau.
A LAND LOCKED NO MORE
Of the nine provinces and two municipalities in the economic belt, Guizhou is the only one which is not actually on the Yangtze. Since November when the Wu opened again, Guizhou has integrated itself with the economic belt that covers 20 percent of China's territory and contributes more than 40 percent of economic growth.
In 2008, the province began to invest heavily in the Wu navigation channel, dredging 430 km of the waterway and building berths, navigation facilities and huge ship elevators to raise boats up to 200 meters.
Navigation was suspended in 2003 when Goupitan hydropower station opened and the water level differential arose. Now water transit has resumed, annual freight volume is expected to hit 15 million tonnes in three years and 100 million tonnes by 2030.
Governor Sun Zhigang believes the province is well on the way to unprecedented economic development. Last year, when Guizhou became a pilot for the opening-up of inland provinces to alleviate poverty and develop new industries, the local economy grew by 10.5 percent, the second highest in the country.
All the less-developed provinces along the Yangtze saw their economies grow much faster than the national average last year, with Jiangxi registering a rise of 9 percent, Yunnan and Anhui both at 8.7 percent, Hubei at 8.1 percent and Hunan at 7.9 percent.
Lin Qidong of the Chongqing Transportation Bureau said new infrastructure along the Yangtze had already been a powerful boost to the inland provinces, and great potential remains.
INTEGRATION BRINGS EXPANSION
Guoyuan, a 16-berth port connected to the railway in Chongqing, shipped 12 million tonnes of freight last year, but can handle up to 30 million tonnes. Every day, cargo shipped from Guangxi, Guizhou, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan arrives for transfer to railroad cars, often bound for northern Europe, 16 days away.